Nature is not only beautiful, it can also help to heal you. In fact, a recent University of Essex study showed that a simple walk in the woods improved symptoms of depression in 71% of participants, making it not only an effective, safe therapy, but one which nearly anyone can easily participate in.
Such is the wonder of ecotherapy – AKA green therapy – which covers a host of natural treatments that can include anything from walking your dog in a city park, to meditating next to a high mountain stream.
And no, you don’t have to live in the country, or even necessarily leave your home to take part in it. In fact, so long as it is nature-based, it doesn’t matter if you are on top of Mt Everest, or in a weeded city lot.
The great thing about ecotherapy is, not only can it be soundly therapeutic for mental wellbeing, personal relationships, social interactions, and physical therapy, it does not require any large investments in equipment, and most of the time, it requires little more than the great outdoors and your willingness to enjoy it.
But how can you take part in this wonderful practice, you may ask? Simple – here are 8 ways for you to get out there and enjoy an amazing healing experience…
Earthing is the practice of getting in direct contact with the earth—something which most of us rarely do in our modern world.
This is because we are usually either shod in rubber-soled shoes, or indoors when we are barefoot, which prevents the mild negative charge of the earth from negating the positive forces we accumulate each day.
While there is controversy over the science behind earthing (also known of as “grounding”), many feel the benefits of the practice include:
- Better sleep.
- Lower blood pressure.
- Normalized circadian rhythms.
- Improved adrenal health.
So how do you get started? It could not be easier! Go and walk around barefoot on your lawn, take a swim in the ocean, get on your knees in your garden, or any other way you can think of to get in direct contact with the earth below you.
You obviously need to take care going barefoot in places where there is not soft sand or grass to caress your tender feet, but why not take a plunge into a lake, pond or river? Water does conduct the earth’s forces, plus it gives you the opportunity for some pleasant, low impact exercise while you’re at it. Give it a try, and enjoy the results!
Go watch the birds
No, you don’t need to know the scientific names, nesting habits, and calls of every bird species out there to enjoy birding. However, the benefits of watching a tree full of finches flitting about like children on a playground can leave you feeling alive with the pleasure of life around you.
Plus, you can learn about the various species of avian friends as you go along, which keeps your brain active and learning—something which helps to decrease cognitive decline and depression as you age.
The bottom line is, observing the little lives of your feathered friends and enjoying their beautiful music can help you develop a positive mental awareness which few other practices can.
Take some pictures
There is no better excuse to get out in the woods than to go on a photo safari, and there are few things as emotionally rewarding and spiritually healing as patiently watching wildlife, plants, and outdoor scenery while you line up that perfect shot.
And no, you don’t need to be Ansel Adams to enjoy taking nature pictures. In fact, you are the only one you need to impress. So long as the experience is rewarding, and your photos remind you of how special that moment was, you are good to go–enjoy!
Plus, even though photography can have an intimidating array of lenses, lights and different cameras for different purposes, all you need is a modern I-phone to take beautiful and rewarding photos.
Just remember to put it in “airplane” mode when you’re out there—no need to let the outside world disturb your healing!
Walk your best friend
The bond between pet parent and pet is a special one, and spending time in nature with your four-legged pal is always time well spent.
Not only can going for a walk with your dog (or any other non-human family member you love spending time with) provide exercise for both of you, it can also relieve depression, ease stress, lower blood pressure and help increase social interaction with others.
In fact, pet parents always have the perfect ice-breaker walking along with them, since how can there be anything better than talking about your fur-baby while getting to know a stranger who stops to give Fido a scratch?
Plus, all that unconditional love from a pet is the truest kind of love there is—and the most healing.
Plant a garden
Getting in touch with the soil can not only provide you with fresh, tasty and nutritious food which you can’t get at the grocery store, it can also improve your health with physical activity, stress relief, and by providing you with a therapeutic hobby.
Gardening also ties in with earthing, since most of the time you are down on the ground and touching the soil when performing it; and it can also give you the opportunity to soak up some vitamin D from the sun while you’re at it.
Plus, even if you only have a small backyard–or even just a patio–a potted garden or other methods for gardening in a small space can still give you the oxygen-providing plants and flowers which can be the difference between a concrete jungle, and a therapeutic and beautiful place to live.
Run through the woods
Running in the forest (or desert, beach, etc.) is one of the most meditative and enlightening activities there are.
Not only does it help you improve your cardiovascular health while decreasing your risk of obesity, diabetes, and cognitive decline, it is also a great way to relieve depression, increase the range of muscles you use, and increase the naturally calming endorphins in your system.
And no, you don’t need to be fast, nor do you need to sign up for any 50-mile races just to enjoy the sport. In fact, a slow-lope is all you need, and you can even walk if you prefer.
However, by exercising in nature, you will likely find more motivation than just showing up at a gym and going through the motions, and the fresh air, sunshine, and plant oxygen also all add to the many benefits of enjoying this wonderfully healthy hobby.
Ride a horse
Not everyone has the opportunity for the equestrian experience, but for those who do, there are few activities as rewarding as riding a horse.
The bond between man and animal cannot be matched, since the synchronicity between you and a horse simply cannot be mimicked through any sort of mechanical transportation, and the feeling that you and horse are working as one with each other is as rewarding as it gets.
In fact, Equine Assist Psychotherapy (EAP) can help with:
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Substance abuse
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Plus, it is not only the horse who is getting exercise, since there is more physical interaction with riding than you may realize.
Leg muscles are worked—particularly the inner thighs and quads—and moving with the horse, ducking branches, and climbing on and off also improve your core strength, get your heart pumping, the oxygen flowing, and you feeling alive.
And, your wild friends tend to be less fearful of a horse, so you can double your healthy, outdoor experience through the enjoyment of seeing more wildlife on horseback than you would with a noisier means of transport.
Sit in a meadow
In its purest form, ecotherapy simply involves being in nature, soaking in fresh air, and enjoying the beauty of what is around you. Meditating in a springtime meadow, next to a creek, or on a high-desert bluff can help you do just that.
Doing so helps you focus away from the ills around you, and takes you to a place of healing like no other. This not only helps you find a new level of relaxation, but can lower your blood pressure, help balance your negative ions with those of the earth’s, and give you a sense of general wellbeing. Having trouble falling to sleep at night?
Disconnect from all your electronic devices, and go sit in the surroundings of a soft, florid meadow while breathing slowly and feeling the warmth of the sun. Now enjoy the most restful sleep you can get!